Thoughts on the ocean, the environment, the universe and everything from nearly a mile high.

Panorama of The Grand Tetons From the top of Table Mountain, Wyoming © Alan Holyoak, 2011

Thursday, February 13, 2014

It's a bit early for the Arctic sea ice melt, but...

It's been a while since I posted anything about the state of the Arctic, but when I checked the National Snow and Ice Database website this morning I thought it was worth a few words.

The graph below shows the Arctic sea ice extent between Nov 2013 and Feb 12, 2014.  There are a couple of notable things here.  First, the ice extent has been between 250,000 and 500,000 square kilometers below the 1981-2010 average the entire time.  This doesn't come as a shock to anyone who follows the Arctic, but it's just an ongoing confirmation of a warming Arctic.

BTW, did you know that according to the National Climactic Data Center (NCDC) of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that the last time that an annual global average temperature was cooler than the 20th century average was in 1976?  Yep, that's 37 years ago (  I shared this with one of my classes of university students yesterday and realized as I said it that all of them were born well after 1976, so they have known only a warming world.  That's a sobering thought.

The second thing the graph shows that's interesting, though not yet significant is what happened over the last week or two.  If you notice the average sea ice extent usually reaches its maximum coverage around the end of February or early March.  The extent does show some ups and downs, as clearly shown in the 2011-2012 (dotted) line.  This year's data are shown on the blue line.  Anyway, so what?  Data of the last week or two show a leveling off and then decline in sea ice cover.  If this continues, and I'd be extremely surprised if it did this early in the season, we could really be in for a doozie of a sea ice loss year in the Arctic.  It's much more likely that this is just a temporary blip.  

Stay tuned.  Life is interesting.  

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